Isle of Palms Now Has More Free Beach Parking Instead Of Less | New

ISLE OF PALMS – On a barrier island that planned months ago to cut 200 beach parking spaces, the state Department of Transportation has asserted its authority and increased the number of free parking spaces instead.

Described as a win-win solution by the Mayor of the Isle of Palms as other city parking restrictions will remain, the hotly contested compromise ends months of dispute over where cars can go on the one of the most popular beaches in the Charleston area.

“The problem of parking and beach access is bigger than the Isle of Palms and affects the state as a whole,” said DOT Secretary Christy Hall, joining the mayor and officials of the city to discuss the work on April 19.

They spoke as the roads department crews had more than 200 corner parking spaces along one side of Palm Boulevard, a public road closest to the beach.

Hall also announced that the speed limit on Palm Boulevard will be reduced to 30 mph, from 35.

Transportation Secretary Christy Hall (left to right), Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll, Councilor Randy Bell and City Administrator Desiree Fragoso discuss SCDOT’s installation of corner parking spaces on the along Palm Boulevard on April 19, 2021, on the Isle of Palms. Grace Beahm Alford / Staff

Reviews on the island were mixed.

“Stupidity!” shouted a man on a bicycle, passing Hall, Mayor Jimmy Carroll and others explained the plan to reporters on Palm Boulevard near 27th Avenue.

Resident Tamara Burrell, who was walking a dog on 27th Avenue, said the plan was a good compromise as parking on residential streets like 27th would remain limited to residents.

“We went from no parking to some parking, to more parking,” she said, giving an abbreviated summary of the back and forth on what to do with the summer influx of cars. which started to increase in rhetoric in 2020.

SC Department of Transportation rejects Palms Island plan to eliminate beach parking

In 2020, the island restricted parking for non-residents in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, later in the year, authorities announced their intention to permanently reduce parking near the beach and charge what was left.

It all came to a head in September when Palms Island City Council approved a plan to cut about 200 parking spaces near the beach.

For the DOT, which has authority over parking along public roads, the barrier island had taken the problem too far.

Hall immediately rejected the plan to eliminate parking and, in February, threatened to revoke approval of the city’s entire parking plan for 2015.

“We were preparing to fight with them to revoke our parking plan,” Carroll said. “Fortunately, at the last minute, Secretary Hall and Administrator (Désirée) Fragoso worked well together.”

The compromise that appears to have ended the dispute adds more free parking along Palm Boulevard by installing corner parking where only parallel parking existed. All corner spaces are on the land side of the road where there is a large right-of-way, while the beach side of the road will continue to have parallel parking.

Conflict Grows Between Charleston Area Beach Visitors and Barrier Island Residents

“It’s going to be so much better,” Carroll said. “There is going to be organized parking on Palm Boulevard.” He added, “It increases parking on Palm Boulevard, but protects neighborhoods and our parking plan. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Police Chief Kevin Cornett said the new provision should improve public safety as it leaves a large shoulder area between the parking spaces and Palm Boulevard.

Inclined parking bumpers.jpg

Teams from the SC Department of Transportation are setting up corner parking spaces along one side of Palm Boulevard on April 19, 2021, on Palms Island. Grace Beahm Alford / Staff

State officials were still setting up spaces late April 19, but the end result should be between 220 and 260 parking spaces where there were 190, Hall said.

No saw palmetto was felled as part of the plan.

City Councilor Randy Bell said the Isle of Palms worked with the DOT on the dimensions of the parking spots to ensure they are large enough to handle even generously sized vans, while leaving 12 feet between the road and the back of parked cars.

“The city’s goal is to park safely, not keep people out of here,” he said.

This is not the perception thousands of people had in 2020 when the city talked about eliminating parking and charging for what was left. The aggrieved residents of Mount Pleasant formed a Facebook group that later became a nonprofit, which filed a lawsuit against the town.

With the parking dispute apparently resolved, the Isle of Palms and the DOT are still at odds over recent changes to the Isle of Palms connector, the main bridge to the island. The DOT recently added bicycle and pedestrian lanes to the roadway at the expense of a central lane reserved for emergency vehicles.

The city and SCDOT plan to conduct traffic studies to assess the results.

Isle of Palms curbs paid parking plan for beach access areas

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

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